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Opinionated SaaS quick-start with pre-built user account and organization system for full-stack application development in React, Node.js, GraphQL and PostgreSQL. Powered by PostGraphile, TypeScript, Apollo Client, Graphile Worker, Graphile Migrate, GraphQL Code Generator, Ant Design and Next.js


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May 1, 2020

Graphile Starter

Take it for a spin!

We're running the starter at:

Feel free to register an account and have a poke around as you see fit.

NOTE: emails are sent from Graphile Starter, so please only enter email addresses you control.

NOTE: every time we merge to master, we ship a new version of Graphile Starter to Heroku and entirely wipe the database, so your data may not persist. If you wish to delete your data before this time you can do so via the delete account feature baked into the starter.


We do not advise that you build your own projects on top of this project until you're comfortable with the various tools it uses (Node.js, Express, PostgreSQL, GraphQL, PostGraphile, Graphile Worker, Graphile Migrate, TypeScript, React, Apollo Client for React, GraphQL Code Generator, ESLint, Prettier, Jest, Cypress, etc).

This is an advanced project with deeply integrated tooling across the full stack. The project is called "Starter" because it helps you to start new projects with all these technologies, tools and techniques already in place. If you're not already familiar with these things then you'll probably find the project overwhelming, it is not intended to be your first experience of any of these tools.

If you're just getting started with PostGraphile, before you dive into this project make sure you check out the PostGraphile required knowledge and especially the schema design tutorial. This repository takes a slightly different approach to schema design than the aforementioned tutorial, but it's still an incredibly valuable resource.


Graphile Starter is an opinionated quick-start project for full-stack application development in React, Node.js, GraphQL and PostgreSQL. It includes the foundations of a modern web application, with a full user registration system, organizations (e.g. teams/companies/etc), session management, optimized job queue, a significant amount of pre-configured tooling, tests (both end-to-end and more granular) and much more.

It is suitable for building projects both large and small, with a focus on productivity. You might use it:

  • to go from conception to launch of a web app during a hack day
  • as the foundation for client projects at your web agency
  • to build your side-hustle without spending lots of time on boilerplate
  • to build a SaaS project to help fund your open source work 😉

However you use it, the project can be deployed to many platforms, and can be scaled to larger audiences both horizontally and vertically with very few changes.

Please note that this software is not "complete," free of software defects, or free of security issues — it is not a "finished" solution, but rather the seed of a solution which you should review, customize, fix, and develop further.

It is intended that you use a "point in time" version of this software ─ it is not intended that you can merge updates to this software into your own derivative in an automated fashion.

Crowd-funded open-source software


Take this software and use it as the starting point to build your project. Go make some money, and give something back to support us building more tools and kits for the Node, GraphQL and PostgreSQL ecosystems. We have made this project available under the simple and liberal MIT license to give you to a huge amount of freedom in how you use it, but this isn't possible without the help of our wonderful sponsors.

We need more people to join our sponsors so we can continue to bring about awesome projects like this. We'd love to spend more time on open source, building tools that will save you and others even more time and money ─ please sponsor our open source efforts:

Click here to find out more about sponsors and sponsorship.

And please give some love to our featured sponsors 🤩:

Chad Furman
Chad Furman
The Guild
The Guild

* Sponsors the entire Graphile suite

Table of contents


Graphile Starter is a full-stack GraphQL and React project, with server-side rendering (SSR) and routing thanks to Next.js. The backend is a beautiful pairing of Node.js and PostgreSQL running on Express.js, enabled by PostGraphile in library mode. The frontend uses the AntD design framework to accelerate development. The entire stack is written in TypeScript, with auto-generated GraphQL types and operations thanks to graphql-code-generator.

There are four tenets to Graphile Starter:

  • Speedy development
  • Batteries included
  • Type safety
  • Best practices

Graphile Starter is easy to start and everything is pre-configured as much as possible.

Speedy development: hot reloading, easy debugging, Graphile's idempotent migration system, job queue and server middleware ready to use; not to mention deep integration with VSCode should you use that editor: plugin recommendations, pre-configured settings, ESLint and Prettier integration and debugging profiles

Batteries included: full user system and OAuth, AntD design framework, Jest and Cypress end-to-end testing, security, email templating and transport, pre-configured linting and code formatting, deployment instructions, and more

Type safety: pre-configured type checking, strongly typed throughout with TypeScript

Best practices: React, GraphQL, PostGraphile, Node, Jest and Cypress best practices

See for a more detailed list of features included and the technical decisions behind them.


Since this is a highly opinionated starter; community members may have slightly different opinions and may choose to maintain forks of this project that apply their own opinions. A few of these are listed below; if you maintain a fork of this project please make a note at the top of your own README, and add it to this list:

VARIANTS ARE NOT OFFICIALLY SUPPORTED and may become out of date or unmaintained over time. If you have issues with variants, please submit issues or PRs to the projects in question, not to this project.


You can either work with this project locally (directly on your machine) or use a pre-configured Docker environment. We'll differentiate this in the README with a table like this one:

Local mode OR Docker mode
command for local development or command for docker-compose development

Be careful not to mix and match Docker-mode vs local-mode for development. You should make a choice and stick to it. (Developing locally but deploying with production.Docker is absolutely fine.)

IMPORTANT: If you choose the Docker mode, be sure to read docker/

For users of Visual Studio Code (VSCode), a .vscode folder is included with editor settings and debugger settings provided, plus a list of recommended extensions. Should you need it, there is also a .devcontainer folder which enables you to use VSCode's remote containers giving you a local-like development experience whilst still using docker containers.

Local development


  • Node.js v14+ must be installed
  • PostgreSQL v10+ server must be available
  • pg_dump command must be available (or you can remove this functionality)
  • VSCode is recommended, but any editor will do

This software has been developed under Mac and Linux, and should work in a bash environment.

Windows users: making a project like Graphile Starter run smoothly on Windows can be a challenge; @JoeSchr and @hips on the Graphile Discord have been working in improving this and they're pretty pleased with the result, but you may still get some teething problems. PRs to fix Windows compatibility issues are welcome (please keep them small!) Failing that, try the Docker mode :)

Docker development


  • docker
  • docker-compose
  • Ensure you've allocated Docker at least 4GB of RAM; significantly more recommended
    • (Development only, production is much more efficient)

Has been tested on Windows and Linux (Ubuntu 18.04LTS).

Getting started

This project is designed to work with yarn. If you don't have yarn installed, you can install it with npm install -g yarn. The Docker setup already has yarn & npm installed and configured.

To get started, please run:

Local mode OR Docker mode
yarn setup or export UID; yarn docker setup

This command will lead you through the necessary steps, and create a .env file for you containing your secrets.

NOTE: export UID is really important on Linux Docker hosts, otherwise the files and folders created by Docker will end up owned by root, which is non-optimal. We recommend adding export UID to your ~/.profile or ~/.bashrc or similar so you don't have to remember it.

Do not commit .env to version control!


You can bring up the stack with:

Local mode OR Docker mode
yarn start or export UID; yarn docker start

After a short period you should be able to load the application at http://localhost:5678

This main command runs a number of tasks:

  • uses graphile-migrate to watch themigrations/current.sql file for changes, and automatically runs it against your database when it changes
  • watches the TypeScript source code of the server, and compiles it from @app/*/src to @app/*/dist so node/graphile-worker/etc. can run the compiled code directly
  • runs the node server (includes PostGraphile and Next.js middleware)
  • runs graphile-worker to execute your tasks (e.g. sending emails)
  • watches your GraphQL files and your PostGraphile schema for changes and generates your TypeScript React hooks for you automatically, leading to strongly typed code with minimal effort
  • runs the jest tests in watch mode, automatically re-running as the database or test files change

NOTE: docker-compose up server also runs the PostgreSQL server that the system connects to.

You may also choose to develop locally, but use the PostgreSQL server via docker-compose up -d db.

Then for development you may need a console; you can open one with:

Local mode OR Docker mode
bash or export UID; yarn docker bash

To shut everything down:

Local mode OR Docker mode
Ctrl-c or export UID; yarn docker down

Making it yours

  1. Download and extract a zip of the latest release from GitHub
  2. In that folder run:
    • git init
    • git add .
    • git commit -m "Graphile Starter base"
  3. Change the project name in package.json
  4. Change the project settings in @app/config/src/index.ts
  5. Replace the file
  6. Add your own copyright notices to the file
  7. Commit as you usually would
  8. Show your appreciation with sponsorship

Docker development

Be sure to read docker/

Building the production docker image

To build the production image, use docker build as shown below. You should supply the ROOT_URL build variable (which will be baked into the client code, so cannot be changed as envvars); if you don't then the defaults will apply (which likely will not be suitable).

To build the worker, pass TARGET="worker" instead of the default TARGET="server".

docker build \
  --file production.Dockerfile \
  --build-arg ROOT_URL="http://localhost:5678" \
  --build-arg TARGET="server" \

When you run the image you must pass it the relevant environmental variables, for example:

docker run --rm -it --init -p 5678:5678 \

Currently if you miss required envvars weird things will happen; we don't currently have environment validation (PRs welcome!).

Note: If you are using the production.Dockerfile to run graphile/starter in a Docker container on eg. Kubernetes, AWS ECS, DigitalOcean App Platform (or similar) and you are trying to connect to Amazon RDS or DigitalOcean databases (or probably other managed databases), make sure to replace /data/amazon-rds-ca-cert.pem with the CA certificate of your own database. This file is copied into your Docker image during build time and can therefore be referenced in your env variables DATABASE_URL and AUTH_DATABASE_URL:

Production build for local mode

Use yarn run build to generate a production build of the project

Deploying to Heroku


If you are using graphile-migrate make sure that you have executed graphile-migrate commit to commit all your database changes, since we only run committed migrations in production.

Make sure you have customized @app/config/src/index.ts.

Make sure everything is committed and pushed in git.

Set up a database server; we recommend using Amazon RDS.

Once your database server is running, you can use our heroku-setup script to automate the setup process. This script does the following:

  • Creates the Heroku app
  • Adds the redis extension to this Heroku app
  • Creates the database in the database server
  • Creates the relevant roles, generating random passwords for them
  • Installs some common database extensions
  • Sets the Heroku config variables
  • Adds the Heroku app as a git remote named 'Heroku'
  • Pushes the 'master' branch to Heroku to perform your initial build

Create a copy of heroku-setup.template and rename the copy to heroku-setup, then edit it and customize the settings at the top. We also recommend reading through the script and customizing it as you see fit - particularly if you are using additional extensions that need installing.

Now run the script:

bash heroku-setup

Hopefully all has gone well. If not, step through the remaining tasks in the Heroku-setup script and fix each task as you go. We've designed the script so that if your superuser credentials are wrong, or the Heroku app already exists, you can just edit the settings and try again. All other errors will probably need manual intervention. Verbosity is high so you can track exactly what happened.

The server should be up and running now (be sure to access it over HTTPS otherwise you will not be able to run GraphQL queries), but it is not yet capable of sending emails. To achieve this, you must configure an email transport. We have pre-configured support for Amazon SES. Once SES is set up, your domain is verified, and you've verified any emails you wish to send email to (or have had your sending limits removed), make sure that the fromEmail in @app/config/src/index.ts is correct, and then create an IAM role for your PostGraphile server. Here's an IAM template for sending emails - this is the only permission required for our IAM role currently, but you may wish to add others later.

    "Version": "2012-10-17",
    "Statement": [
            "Effect": "Allow",
            "Action": "ses:SendRawEmail",
            "Resource": "*"

Generate an Access Key for this IAM role, and then tell Heroku the access key id and secret:

heroku config:set AWS_ACCESS_KEY_ID="..." AWS_SECRET_ACCESS_KEY="..." -a $APP_NAME

Now you can tell Heroku to run the worker process as well as the currently running 'web' process:

heroku ps:scale worker=1 -a $APP_NAME

When you register an account on the server you should receive a verification email containing a clickable link. When you click the link your email will be verified and thanks to GraphQL subscriptions the previous tab should be updated to reflect that your account is now verified.

You can also configure your application for social login. This works the same as in development except the callback URL will be different, something like Set the GitHub OAuth secrets on your Heroku app to trigger a restart and enable social login:

heroku config:set GITHUB_KEY="..." GITHUB_SECRET="..." -a $APP_NAME


To delete the Heroku app:

heroku apps:destroy -a $APP_NAME

To delete the database/roles (replace dbname with your database name):

drop database dbname;
drop role dbname_visitor;
drop role dbname_authenticator;
drop role dbname;

Custom packages

When running yarn setup, this command will also invoke lerna run setup. This allows you to add custom setup hooks necessary for your individual packages.

Add a line like the following to your scripts section in your package.json:

"setup": "npm i -g some-package"

MIT License

This is open source software; you may use, modify and distribute it under the terms of the MIT License, see


Opinionated SaaS quick-start with pre-built user account and organization system for full-stack application development in React, Node.js, GraphQL and PostgreSQL. Powered by PostGraphile, TypeScript, Apollo Client, Graphile Worker, Graphile Migrate, GraphQL Code Generator, Ant Design and Next.js




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